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Hannah Li

Hannah Li

Meet illustrator from New York, Hannah Li.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in a southern city in China, in a loving family. My parents are both artists, they offered an unlimited space for me to learn and create. I enjoyed watching my dad doing xylograph, painting, and sketching. Most of my vivid childhood memories were sitting in front of the desk and doodling to amuse myself. I spend lots of my childhood with my nana too. She is such a fantastic role model, and I admire her open-minded and wise heart. The pictures I make nowadays somehow reserved my memories and feelings of my childhood. I went to college for Oil Painting in China for my Bachelor degree. I am glad that I made this decision as an entrance of my artist path. I moved to the US afterward and graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with MFA in Illustration. Stepping into communication arts, at this stage of my life, fits the way I want to talk to this world. I also consistently feel lucky that I get to do what I am passionate about for my career – working as a freelance illustrator.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

My first impression of New York is that the city reminds me of home with its energy and high-speed lifestyle. The hometown I grow up with is best known for its entertainment industries, lots of restaurants, events, and the street remains crowded even in the 3:00 am. I like the similar way in New York that full of life, energy, and enthusiasm. What is more, bring me to move here is its diversity in culture, arts, and cuisine. It is a big fusion of everything. I feel like I see something new every time I step foot outside. Being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city life is my thing, it makes me feel energetic and alive. Although I don’t know how long I am going to spend my life in New York, I won’t regret I had at least once lived here.

 

New York is for dreamers, but living in New York is realistic.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

New York is for dreamers, but living in New York is realistic. It is a perfect place for people who want to chase their dreams and doesn’t mind living with a busy schedule. The rent is expensive here, the job is competitive, the weather can be a challenge to deal with (I used to live in the warm southern city and don’t tolerate well for a cold winter). Every city got its good and bad to live in, New York is no different. At least for me, this is the perfect city to chase my dreams, I enjoy every second living here.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Possible, diverse, and hustle.

 

How did you start your career in art?

My parents brought significant impacts on my career. As I mentioned earlier, they are both artists. My dad is a painter and printmaker. Mom is a writer who mainly focuses on documentary and television writing. I remember the very first time that I developed a sense for storytelling is when I saw one of the sequential picture books my dad published in his early age. I was astounded by the charm of the narratives he made through the combination of text and images. Since then telling stories has become my interest. I know that I am destined for a career in art, and I went back and forth, trying out different media and forms in the four years of academic training in college. I felt the lines between fine art and communication art, although it is relatively related to building a narrative in both forms, creating the picture that based on the texts and context seems more fitting with the way I want to communicate with the world. Back then, there were limited opportunities for pursuing an illustration major in college in China, so after received my Bachelor degree in Oil Painting, I decided to continue my studies overseas. I had a wonderful time studied at Savannah College of Art and Design. My professor Rick Lovell led me into the illustration world with endless help and supports. I also had privilege knowing Bill Mayer, he played an essential role in my freelancer career as a mentor. I have great trust in their opinions. Then I moved to New York to start working as a freelancer. I’ve worked with a few clients like Harper’s Bazaar Germany, Quanta Magazine, Miniminus right after graduation. I barely had a gap between graduation and freelancing, which slightly made it less stressful for me to worry if I can make it as a freelancer, but it didn’t relax me a bit from working hard towards the possibilities to collaborate with my dream clients (I have a long list of that;)

 

I remember the very first time that I developed a sense for storytelling is when I saw one of the sequential picture books my dad published in his early age. I was astounded by the charm of the narratives he made through the combination of text and images. Since then telling stories has become my interest.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

Luckily, yes. My family, my teachers, and my friends, they all were very supportive of different points of view. In some traditions, especially in China, education tends to encourage people to work hard to support a family as a primary. It is getting different nowadays, but still, it makes an easy cliché that parents would doubt that being an artist could be a successful career just like a doctor or a lawyer. I appreciate that the atmosphere I grew up with offered such a free space for me to choose my path freely, and most importantly, my family believes in my dream since I was a kid.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

Career-wise, I do have a long list client that I want to work with. I can be super driven, and I am passionate about it. For the longer future, I don’t know. Maybe I will be diving deeper and focusing on one specific subject, or perhaps not. One thing that I am sure about is, I will always be carrying the responsibility that contributes to cultural diversity, bring positive energy, the true social value to my audiences.

 

One thing that I am sure about is, I will always be carrying the responsibility that contributes to cultural diversity, bring positive energy, the true social value to my audiences.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I love movie and music; it would be so dreamy to work with the filmmakers or musicians that I admire, just to think about it. My all-time favorite filmmaker: Quentin Tarantino. My favorite band: The XX, Massive Attack.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

They are strong, independent, and dedicated.

 

They are strong, independent, and dedicated.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

The women from my family, they are the role models I look up to since I was a kid. My mom was a journalist once, in her mid-career, she created the first satellite TV channel in China called Women TV in 1999. Now she is retired and works as a full-time freelance writer. She was one of the pioneers in China back to the time, to delicate to woman’s subject via television industry and related media. She wrote a few books about the woman in modernism and would host a lot of forums and invited female elites came to share their experiences and ideas, etc. Growing up witness all that, it helped to encourage me to learn about gender and think independently.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

A female artist, in my culture and history, back to the time, might be considered to be a minority. In the era of ’90s, when I was born and growing, society is slowing changing its attitude. Although it still holds the stereotypical ideas that woman’s success can’t compete with men’s, the majority of people in the society started to extend its acceptance for women nowadays. I personally don’t feel any differences between male and female in the illustration field, we all doing our own things, and we kindly introduced each other to the clients when the commission needs a specific style.

 

Remember to love yourself, to do what you passionate about and put a full effort into it.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Remember to love yourself, to do what you passionate about and put a full effort into it. Be brave and independent. Keep it up and working extra hard. Last but not least, be real and to trust yourself. I said that to myself as well.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Hannah Li.

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